REVIEW: DVD Release: Bleach: Series 05: Part 01

Series: Bleach: Series 05: Part 01
Release date: 30th August 2010
Certificate: 12
Running time: 199 mins
Director: Noriyuki Abe
Starring: Johnny Yong Bosch, Masakazu Morita, Fumiko Orikasa, Yuki Matsuoka
Genre: Anime
Studio: Manga
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

The first part of Bleach season five arrives on DVD, bringing with it more of the animated chaos, pseudo-spiritualism and complex mythology that has gained it an eager and ever-growing fan base.

Ichigo continues his role of Soul Reaper, but this time an evil pack of renegades have broken into the Soul Societies’ inner sanctum, bringing with them a tidal-wave of violence . The ability of the group to hide their own ‘Soul-pressure’ renders them invisible to the high-ranking reapers detection making their presence all the more dangerous.

Soon after the initial breach of the cities walls, the renegades seriously injure one of our main protagonists. As the battle between good and evil mounts, vengeance becomes involved in the mix. But it soon becomes clear that the seemingly endless battles are actually a distraction for an impending terrorist attack.

Amongst all the ancient feuding and political friction, there is a magical race of stuffed animals who are used to detect ‘Soul Pressure’. As well as providing some of the comic relief of the series in season five, they start to become fully-fleshed characters of their own, with the protective bird creature, perverted lion and sarcastic green faced man each taking it in turns to help, distract and amuse our main group of heroes…

It is important whilst watching Bleach to note just how astonishingly popular the series is. In the United States, it is rated as one of the top ten most popular anime series’, and, in its native Japan, the manga, on which this is based, sold over sixty-one-million copies.

In the original season, Ichigo was thrown into battle with a horde of demons, giving its audience a new demented enemy every week. The popularity of the show was simple; it worked on the same level as a freak-show. People would tune in looking for the latest unsettling monstrosity and sit back as it was punished and contained by the forces of good. But that simple structure has now been replaced with an ever more complicated series of narrative arcs, which stem from the characters and their placing in the imagined hierarchy of the afterlife. This would be welcome if the characters provided were as fascinating as the demonic entities they faced. But the simple truth of the matter is they are not.

The plot is too familiar, too clichéd to engage. As the endless dialogue clunks on, it leaves you rolling your eyes and sighing loudly, wishing the writers had been brave enough to bestow us with something resembling originality.

But in fairness maybe what a crowd are really looking for here is kinetic battle sequences rather than a cerebral, or indeed comprehendible, plot. Baring in mind just how popular this show is, it still manages to looks amazingly cheap, visually unappealing and hugely uninteresting. The fight sequences consist of large light orbs firing randomly, characters moving very quickly, and not a lot else. They contain none of the spark or energy needed to keep you on the edge of your seat - it is, most of the time, difficult to figure out who you are meant to be rooting for, and when you do, it is even harder to care. In a seeming attempt to make sure the audience gain as little enjoyment from these events as is possible, they will grind to halt for some more clunky dialogue and failed attempts at wit. Which leads us to the subject of comic relief.

In a blatant attempt to create more merchandise, the heroes are all teamed with a set of annoying stuffed animal creations that, we are left to presume, are meant to be funny. But this attempt at humour is nothing more than an increasingly offensive assault. If the idea of a sexually-aggressive lion stalking woman and ogling their breasts is funny then so be it, but the rest of this ‘cute’ mob spend the rest of the show squawking loudly or just getting in the way. When they appear on the screen, usually in scenes that are quite separate from the larger storyline, they stop all plot-progression and just make for a show that is tonally messy, part ineffective drama, part un-amusing farce

This is for the converts only. Its huge cult-following masks a show that overindulges in cliché, leaving no space for originality, interesting characters or a drop of humanity. Cold, ineffective and wildly incomprehensible. AC

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